Orcs and Humans: Our Visit to the Warcraft Set
Fans of the MMORPG (massively multi-player role-playing game) World of Warcraft have been waiting for a film version of the game forever. We were first teased with a version from Sam Raimi, but that fell through. The one we’re finally going to see next year is directed by Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code). We got a chance to check out the set and see how close to the lore of the game we’re going to get. Players are certainly going to have some Easter eggs according to Jones. We may even see a nod to the YouTube meme from years ago, Leroy Jenkins, referring to a guy (who is fictional) who got tired of waiting for his raid to start and runs in yelling his name, destroying the careful planning of his guild mates. We asked Jones about it. He was coy, but said, “There’s a good amount of the… for the Easter egg spotters out there, there’s plenty of material to go around, so, keeping the tradition of that.”
Fans of the game don’t have to worry that the Alliance is going to be all good guys and that the Horde is going to be all bad. Producer Stuart Fennegan told us about the split. “Rather than, oh, it’s the good guys versus the bad guys … I think you know we really want to make sure that an audience, whether they know what the hell the Alliance and the Horde are, when they leave go, it’s like, yeah, he was a good guy. And that guy was a good guy too. That understanding of a perspective from both sides… that’s what I think the Blizzard guys were going for without getting too deep into it… and I think you know there’s an opportunity to make sure that both sides of every conflict always think they’re right.”
Jones told us about the technology and working with motion capture actors. “You know, in some ways there are things which have technically been difficult to achieve the way we planned, but then you get payoffs in other areas because the technology is really on the bleeding edge,” Jones said. “There are things which are not going quite the way you want, but then there are other things like, oh, my God, that worked so well and we end up using it more. So, there’s kind of this technology we’re using where we’ll actually record a performance with our mo-cap actors until we get it to the point where we really love it. And then we’ll actually let the actors just rest and we’ll just shoot plates playing.”
One of the things fans are going to appreciate (and I say this as a long-time player of the game on both the Alliance and Horde sides) is the insane attention to detail. We saw Alliance horse armor on actual horses (and Griffon armor on a model) and every color and curve is right from the game. The same goes for the set. Everything down to the crates were accurate, as if you were wandering past the Inn at Goldshire (and game fans know what goes down there).
Mayes Rubeo from the costume department told us that they have almost 700 costumes for the film, including the animal armor. We actually got to watch one of the battle scenes done on a sound stage with Alliance warriors on horses, charging an Orc encampment. They were charging over a hill that was built up and covered in grass. We got to walk around the Orc set, where we really got a chance to appreciate the size of the Orcs versus the humans.
Another set we got to see was one of the towers you see spread around Horde territory, which has a sort of primitive feel. Elizabeth Wilcox from the set department told us about the insane amount of work that went into getting the materials. “The body of that tent was actually built in Turkey by some Bedouin tent builders. And what we did was we had a buyer in Turkey, who I’ve worked with before, who went into the mountains to the Bedouin tent people and–her friends, and they traded some new tent fabric for old tent pieces with some of the tent builders. And so, they went around collecting old tent pieces. So, the roof of our tent was built out of old Bedouin tent fabrics. It’s all aged and faded and patched to give it character. And then they actually wove the wools for us. And they–there was a bit of a problem. They couldn’t hand weave them because–or, no, they had to hand weave them. They couldn’t get them from the factory because there was a crisis somewhere, and they were building Bedouin tents at the factory for somebody else. I don’t know who. So, she would send me photographs of the ladies sitting sewing the tent together by hand.”
We’re probably not going to see any Blood Elves (though I did ask about Merlocs – the answer was coy, but the production team did the noise for us). This story, as was announced at BlizzCon last year, is really about the Orcs vs. Humans. Fennegan said, “[We’re] focusing in on the origin of Orcs versus humans. So, you know, there’s plenty of characters that we all love and care about. But, for us really establishing that world and three dimensional Orcs that you care about was really important. And that’s the focus for this film.”
We asked about how involved Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft were in the film. He said, “Involving Chris Metzen [from Blizzard] and, you know, who originated so many of these characters … literally like two weeks ago we’re sitting at the monitor watching tapes in a very awesome set. And I get a call Chris Metzen has just arrived. It’s like, instead of sending him in, it’s like you scamper outside because you want to watch Chris Metzen as he walks into this amazing armory set within Stormwind [the main city of the Alliance]. And he’s like, you know, this wonder of a child at Christmas. It’s fantastic. So, I mean the whole thing here mean, you know, the iterations of Duncan’s drops at the script and just checking that we’re not doing anything that completely destroys the cannon of law that those guys have created.”